Post Academic

Conquering Your Inbox: Making Email Etiquette Work for You

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionNow that you’ve tamed your inbox, it’s time to evaluate the quality of your online correspondence. Whatever you do, do not panic. Emails are not supposed to be great literature. They don’t even need to be grammatical. They just need to be effective and, most important, polite.

With the rise of email and IM in the workplace, it’s even easier to be rude. You can be rude via email even if that’s not your intention. Without seeing someone’s face, you can’t tell what a person really means. A “thanks a lot” in an email might read like a sarcastic “up yours” without the proper context.

At some point, your online words are bound to be misunderstood. Here’s how to be clear without offending your colleagues:

Choose your email length wisely. An email that’s too short might come off as brusque, like you didn’t think enough of the recipient to write a complete sentence. But a long email might open you up to unwanted critique or tempt you to go off topic. Stick to the task at hand.

More after the jump! Image from Deutsche Fotothek, Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons license.

Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Habits

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionA few days ago, I offered advice that helps channel all your emails to one account and gives you more control over finding emails that you need. That will only go so far, however, unless you change some of your email habits so you can make emailing more productive. For starters,

Convert emails to actions. Anyone who knows GTD is going to know this. An email is worthless if it’s just sitting in your inbox. Determine the next step. For example, if someone sends an email talking about a massive work backup, do you need to take steps to hire a new person on your team? And what’s the first step to reach that goal?

Don’t reply immediately. There’s a rule that you should let something you just wrote marinate for a while before you start editing it. Other people’s ideas should marinate as well. You might need to get something done right-now-this-minute, but it always helps if you give the whole team a chance to chime in. Someone might volunteer for the job, or someone else might quash the task. Don’t waste your time until you see how the situation plays out.

More after the jump! Image from the German Federal Archive, Wikimedia Commons.

Conquering Your Inbox: Changing Your Email Structure

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAn inbox can be one of the most depressing time-sucks known to humanity. You can spend hours answering e-mails and engaging in discussion. Hours will fly by … yet you haven’t accomplished a bloody thing, and there are still 100 emails you still haven’t answered.

I’m not going to pretend I can help you solve all your inbox issues, but when I entered the Hamster World, I had to figure out how to tame my inbox fast, or I was going to drown in an email tidal wave. These tips involve organizing old emails and changing your email behaviors to stop email threads from growing too long.

Evaluate your email service. Is your email service doing the job for you? Consider the features. Can you create folders? How much space do you have? Can you search your emails? If you aren’t happy, notify your supervisor or IT, or open your own gmail account and have everything sent there. Then …

More after the jump! NWRC programmer Irma Lewis at the console of the ALWAC III computer in 1959. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.